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  • Isaac Mayo's private journal at sea, 1809-1819. USS Constitution Museum Collection.

Issac Mayo's Journal

What is this?

The journal of Isaac Mayo while at sea from 1809-1819

When is it from?

November 15, 1809 to August 10, 1819

Why is it Important?

Isaac Mayo joined the US Navy late in 1809 at the age of 18, and was first assigned to serve on board USS Wasp as midshipman under the command of Captain James Lawrence. This journal is a record of the time he spent at sea, containing a narrative account as well as charts with the longitudes and latitudes of the cruises he participated in between the years of 1809-1819.

During the War of 1812, Mayo served aboard USS Hornet, again under the command of Captain Lawrence, having been transferred with the Captain from Wasp to US Brig Argus and then the Hornet. For Mayo, the war began on June 21, 1812 when the ship received word of the declaration of war. Mayo comments on the general atmosphere the news created on board the ship, observing that even "the smallest boy on board seems anxious to meet who is now looked upon as the common tyrant of the ocean, for they have heard the woeful tales from the older sailors. It was also a time for all those that had been "impressed in the English naval service" to have an "opportunity of wreaking their vengeance upon those that have oppressed them."

Mayo's journal provides an account of all notable events during his time at sea especially all other ships they saw, captured, and sailed with as well as news he received about other American victories (including the reports circulating regarding Constitution's defeat of both HMS Guerriere and HMS Java).

On February 4, 1815, Mayo was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant and went on to have a distinguished naval career. He was made commander of the African Squadron in 1850, and took Constitution for his flagship. In 1861, as hostilities between the North and South escalated, Mayo tended his resignation from the Navy:

For more than half a century it has been the pride of my life to hold office under the Government of the United States. For twenty-five, I have engaged in active sea-service and have never seen my flag dishonored, or the American arms disgraced by defeat. It was the hope of my old age that I might die, as I had lived, an officer in the Navy of a free Government. This hope has been taken from me. In adopting the policy of coercion, you have denied to millions of freemen the rights of the Constitution and in its stead you have placed the will of a sectional Party. As one of the oldest soldiers of America, I protest--in the name of humanity--against this "war against brethren!" I cannot fight against the Constitution while pretending to fight for it. You will therefore oblige me by accepting my resignation.

President Lincoln denied his request and dismissed him instead. He died the same day.


Text © 2010 USS Constitution Museum

Physical Characteristics

A calf leather-bound book, measuring 9 3/4" high by 7 5/8" wide, with the title of the journal stamped on the front.

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